Download Festival debuts new surveillance technologies

Download Festival

Attendees of the Download Festival will be subjected to a new police facial recognition system, and surveillance of their onsite location and expenditure via the debut of RFID wristbands.

The debut surveillance technologies are a new facial recognition system being rolled out by Leicestershire Police, and Download’s own RFID wristbands, provided by German RFID specialists YouChip.

Leicestershire Police have been trialling NEC Corporation’s NeoFace facial recognition system since April 2014, though only announced the trial in July of that year, and seem to have been delighted with its results to date.

NeoFace has compared facial images, captured by CCTV/IPTV recordings, with facial images stored in Leicestershire’s local custody database.

NEC, however, advertises its NeoFace suite as able to offer much more in biometrics surveillance, and while the particular system to be used at Download has not been revealed, it may also be part of the company’s suite.

NeoFace Watch is the mobile surveillance platform from the NeoFace suite, which functions by “integrating face matching technology with video surveillance input, while checking individuals against known photographic watch lists, and producing real-time alerts” according to a product brochure.

According to an interview with DC Kevin Walker, published in Police Oracle on Monday, “Strategically placed cameras will scan faces at the Download Festival site in Donington before comparing [them] with a database of custody images from across Europe.

The Register has been told the database of “lawfully held European custody photos” is “a stand-alone database of legally held custody photographs drawn together with partners in Europol“.

In response to a freedom of information request filed by the Register to Leicestershire Police in April asking whether NeoFace had, or could, utilise information received from outside of its custody database — making specific reference to SIS II, they were told: “NeoFace has been intentionally limited in scope to ensure that it only uses images held on our custody database. It is a stand-alone system that does not link with other national databases such as the PNC.” This is true, as the real-time facial recognition system is being considered as a “totally different project” from the existing facial recognition system used by the police.

The Register have also learned that the Police Oracle’s publication of the interview has caused significant upset for management at Leicestershire Police, who did not want any advance publicity of their “new” surveillance project. The public would have been informed that it had been placed under surveillance after the event had ended, presumably as part of a “you didn’t know, therefore it wasn’t intrusive”, justification for the scheme.

In addition to police surveillance, Download Festival will be “the first major UK festival to use RFID technology for full cashless payment and access control“.

Ticket holders will be issued with an RFID festival wristband on arrival which will determine what areas of Donington Park they have access to, and will also function as an electronic payment system, linked to specifically set-up customer accounts through which they will have to pay for food, drinks and merchandise.

Every single person on site, including staff, children, RIP and VIP customers will need a dog tag to get around the festival,” according to the FAQ section of the site. “The only way to get around the festival and pay for stuff is to use this system. It’s not possible to opt out of this.

Download’s privacy policy acknowledges that it will collect customer information through the use of the cashless payment wristbands and will, typically, share that information with other companies, who will collaborate to establish customer interests, purchases and household type to aid in profiling for advertising purposes.

The FAQ also asks whether your “movement[s] can be tracked with RFID technology?” “No, it can’t, your dog tag will not be equipped with GPS technology and therefore it will be impossible to track your movements.

This is a response which relies upon a very specific definition of what constitutes the tracking of movements. While correctly distinguished from a positioning system, RFID “control access” functions allow a database operator to locate the wrist-bound devices by logging its passage into each access-controlled area.

Another statement in the FAQs says: “All payments on the website are encrypted and use 3D secure technology. Each RFID chip is encrypted and unique to you“.

This does not mean that the RFIDs themselves use encryption. While this is possible, but will not be commercially available until 2015 Q3.

Talking to The Register, Raj Samani, chief technology officer at Intel Security, said:

  • There is a risk that RFID tags could be used for the profiling and/or tracking of individuals because identifiers could be used to re-identify a particular individual.
  • It is important for consumers to be made aware of the policy, and give their consent for the tags to be made operational.
  • Without appropriate consent retailers who pass RFID tags to customers without automatically deactivating or removing them may enable this risk of RFID tags being used for tracking individuals.

Download and YouChip have so far not commented.

Source : [The Register]